Marketing team sitting at a table with illustrated tools and graphsThere’s no shame in admitting you don’t know the answer to something — or know exactly what a word or phrase means. That’s even true for those of us who make a living working with words. After all, new trends, approaches and technology can make it tough to stay on top of the latest and greatest marketing terminology. So, we decided to compile a brief marketing glossary of some of the most commonly used (and misused) phrases in the industry.

Not sure what the difference is between content strategy and marketing?

What about what makes a goal a goal or an objective an objective?

1. Marketing

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), “marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.”

Clear as mud? I thought so, too. I often think back to what I learned in college: Marketing is creating and/or fulfilling a demand for a product or service. It may be a simplified definition, but it’s a bit clearer and a catch-all for the work marketers do each day. A fellow WriterGirl shared her favorite marketing definition, this one by Philip Kotler:

“The science and art of exploring, creating and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit. Marketing identifies unfilled needs and desires.”

To me, marketing is the general umbrella for the approaches we use to share information, promote a product or service or elevate an organization’s reputation. It includes digital marketing, search engine marketing, content marketing, direct mail. The list goes on and on. That’s likely why it’s easy to confuse many general marketing terms with more specific marketing lexicon — like content marketing.

2. Content marketing

Content marketing is a specific approach to marketing. Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Considering all marketing has “content,” it can be confusing to know where to draw the line at what’s marketing and what’s content marketing. That’s because there really shouldn’t be a line: Content marketing drives marketing and marketing drives content marketing. You can’t have one without the other (and you shouldn’t have one but not another!).

When you compare the definitions of content marketing and marketing, a few things stand out. Content marketing focuses on creating and distributing content. Marketing, on the other hand, focuses on all avenues and channels of marketing, including search engine marketing, ad, lead generation and more. Content marketing allows you to have a narrower focus on how your organization can create engaging and relevant content for your audience — and drive them to desired behavior (scheduling an appointment, building trust, engaging in content list social posts, blogs or websites).

3., 4. and 5. Goals, objectives, strategy — oh my!

Three more terms for our marketing glossary (and three that are often interchanged) are goals, objectives and strategies, but each serves a very different role — and they each build on one another.


One of the best descriptions of a goal I’ve read is that a goal is the destination of a journey. It’s more general and states the overall purpose of a marketing plan. Some examples of marketing goals include:

  • Raise awareness of a service
  • Increase visitors to a website
  • Attract new patients


An objective is more specific and “SMART:”

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timed

Goals vs. objectives

For example, if your overall goal is to attract new patients, an objective would be: “Gain 20 new primary care patients in Q1 2021.” This offers a clear path to your goal — or to continue the metaphor — your destination. You may have more than one objective for your marketing goal. If you’re planning to create a page targeted to new patients, you may have an objective related to website traffic to that page or how many people sign up for a newsletter.


Next, your strategy helps outline how you will achieve your objectives and, ultimately, your goal. Strategies were once described to me as a bucket for all the tactics you use in your plan. So, building on the patient acquisition goal, you may have strategies that look like:

  • Use media partners and outlets to highlight providers, services and the organization’s reputation
  • Develop direct mail campaigns to reach potential new patients
  • Launch a social media challenge to gain new followers and engagement

Each of these strategies is a step to your objective and goal. Tactics, of course, are the specific steps and actions you take under each strategy. (Ideas for social posts, pitches to local news outlets, themes for direct mail campaign.)

6. Content marketing plan

A content plan specifically outlines how content will engage and motivate your audience. It includes all the same components of a traditional marketing plan — goals, objectives, strategies, tactics and evaluation. But, a content plan specifically outlines how content will move your organization closer to its goals.

Let’s look back at our new patient acquisition goal. Your content plan might specifically address how content will move target audiences from a prospective patient to someone who visits your organization’s primary care offices each year for wellness exams and sick visits. Your content plan is very tactical: It outlines the steps you need to take to reach your goal.

7. Content strategy

Now, onto our final — and probably trickiest — term: Content strategy. A content strategy is much more than a bucket (to use an earlier term) in a marketing plan.

Your content strategy is a robust, comprehensive and overarching approach to how your organization uses content in ALL materials and media. The strongest content strategies are more than a sentence or two; they are entire documents, presentations or guides to how your organization and marketing team can effectively connect with audiences.

A strong strategy should reflect your brand, your audience members, your organization’s goals. It’s your why and (most importantly) your how to get audiences engaged with your content.

Spending time on a content strategy may seem like an extra and unnecessary step when you’ve already developed a marketing plan. But, a little time can pay dividends when creating and distributing exciting, interesting and relevant content. After all, a content strategy not only outlines how to reach audiences, but it helps keep team members, colleagues in other departments and partners on the same page.

Have another question? Let us know!

Words are near and dear to us here at WriterGirl. You’ll regularly find us exploring new words and staying up to date on the latest insight from professional organizations like the Associated Press, American Marketing Association, Content Marketing Institute and many others. But, with more than 171,000 words in the Oxford dictionary, there are probably a few we still don’t know!

What’s your favorite (or least favorite) marketing term? Did we miss one in our marketing glossary? Share with us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Interested in learning more about the difference between content planning, content strategy or all things content marketing related? Find out how WriterGirl can help with our custom content approach and services.